According to modern-day atlas measurements, Jacob has traveled fifty miles from Beersheba to Bethel the first day. His fear of his brother ́s revenge probably spurs him on as he makes that lengthy trek. He wants to put as much distance as possible between him and Esau ́s brutal wrath. We can also make the best of poetic language when it says “because the sun had set.” The growing darkness of twilight can invoke romance, or in Jacob ́s case, apprehension. But the tired young man grabs the minimum element for a night’s rest—a rock as a pillow.
Jacob could not possibly surmise the outcome of that night. He only knows that he is heading toward Haran to find a wife among his mother ́s relatives and be secure there for a while. But grace surprises him. More than a dream—it is a vision, a confirmation of his personal participation in the patriarchal project. His father ́s blessing before parting has now received approval from Yahweh with the added promise of divine protection at all times until the full plan becomes reality.
We are not always running away from infuriated brothers or traveling far from home to find a spouse, but we have experienced foreboding sunsets of life. We have lain down to sleep out of sheer exhaustion still carrying heavy loads of anguish and uncertainty, even of fear. But our God surprises us with divine grace when we least expect it and takes our situation far beyond immediate solutions. God doesn’t just mend things; God makes things new!
Before the close of this day, take some time to review your pilgrimage of life and note how many times the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has actually brought you a Bethel experience just when you thought there was only a night to endure.
God Eternal, help us to trust your guidance even when we cannot see beyond the next hour of existence. Thank you for your unexpected grace that grasps us along the way. Amen.
This week’s texts depict a broad span of settings of God’s activity, from Jacob’s encounter in solitude to the broader context of creation itself in Romans. The texts also tell of God’s commission of human agents, weak and inadequate, to carry out divine tasks. Jacob may not be totally aware of God’s plans for him, but the reader knows. Paul declares that the people in whom the Spirit of God dwells are very much in tune with the pain of creation. They also long for God’s nal deliverance. Just at the point of the reluctance of God’s agents to carry out the tasks, the parable from Matthew about the wheat and weeds gives hope. God will take care of the weeds in God’s own time. Psalm 139 is a moving statement on the ubiquitous nature of God’s presence.
• Read Genesis 28:10-19a. When have you “wakened” to acknowledge that you were in a holy place? What did you do to memorialize the place?
• Read Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24. Do you regularly take time in a set-aside place for an intimate relationship with God? If not, what steps could you take to ensure that relationship?
• Read Romans 8:12-25. Do you feel close enough to God to call God “Abba”? Why or why not?
• Read Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. What are you doing to discourage the growth of evil in your life? How does your garden grow?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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